… As thousands of fleeing villagers trapped in bush without food
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Egufe Yafugborhi, Simon Ebegbulem Akpokona Omafuaire , Godwin Oghre Tom Moses & Perez Brisibe
WARRI—Hundreds of villagers, including women and children, fleeing from different Gbaramatu communities in Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State, following the siege by soldiers, have remained trapped in the bush for the past four days without food.
This came as Niger Delta Avengers yesterday accused the Chief of Army Staff, COAS, Lt.General Tukur Buratai, of telling President Muhammadu Buhari, that its members were responsible for the death of 50 soldiers in the creeks of the Niger Delta.
Vanguard gathered that controlled movement in and out of the creeks by soldiers ostensibly to checkmate the militants, had also compounded the woes of fleeing victims as they could neither move nor get immediate help from relatives outside the crisis zone.
Reacting to the development, Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, in a statement by its spokesperson, Mr. Eric Omare, said: “The Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Worldwide wishes to alert the world of the massive military and genocidal attacks against Ijaw people and communities of the Niger Delta of Nigeria.
“From Monday, May 30 to the early hours of today, Tuesday, May 31, 2016, there have been massive military attacks against innocent Ijaw communities and peoples from Gbaramatu to Ogbe-Ijoh Kingdoms in Delta State to Southern Ijaw, Nembe, Brass and some other local government areas of Bayelsa State.
“In Gbaramatu, Delta State the people, especially women and children are in serious danger of mass death if they are not rescued from the rampaging military officers.
‘’Most people that ran into the bush in Oporoza, Kurutie, Kunukunuma, Kokodiagbene and some other villages and communities in Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State are yet to be seen.
“In parts of Ogbe-Ijoh, especially the Naifor Island (Opposite Warri), the Navy throughout the night of May 30 to May 31, shot sporadically into the communities and in the process, a couple (Mr and Mrs Tiemo) were critically wounded.
“Ironically, this couple only recently ran to Naifor Island to escape the military onslaught. The villagers in desperation took the critically injured couple to the Navy base where they left them for the Navy to do whatever they wished to do with the couple.”
The state of this couple from Ayakoromo community in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State is still unknown at the time of issuing this statement.
‘’The IYC recall a similar incident a few months ago at the start of the renewed hostilities in the Niger Delta region in the same community.
“There is no oil facility in Naifor Island, Ogbe-Ijoh and none is close to the community. Therefore, there is no singular justification why the Navy has decided to use that particular community as its main target to justify the huge sum of money allocated to them to find the Avengers.’’
In its accusation of the Army chief, Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, in a tweet yesterday, gave account of how the soldiers perished, and denied claims by the Army that it arrested 10 of its members, last Saturday, at Oporoza, saying there was no truth in the claim.
The Chief of Army Staff had disclosed last weekend in Port Harcourt that the Niger Delta Avengers were criminals, adding that the group was killing soldiers in locations in the region and vowed that the army would crush them.
Buratai had said: “They have been attacking our troop locations, killing our soldiers. We will not tolerate them. We will deal with them according to the law. We will look for them wherever they are, they are not agitating for anything, and they are just into crime.
‘’Communities should be patriotic enough to expose these criminals. They have nothing to fear, they should help fish out these criminals killing our soldiers, and we will not tolerate that.”
But the militants said in response: ‘’The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General T. Y. Buratai, in his statement said NDA killed Nigeria soldiers, it is a big lie. Chief of Army Staff, we are not the ones killing your soldiers, stop lying.”
“The Chief of Army Staff deployed personnel to the creeks without amphibian training, that led to the death of about 50 soldiers. If not for the help of local fishermen, the death rate would have been up to 100.
“He has been lying to his Commander in Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari that NDA are killing soldiers. This is our stand; we have not killed any soldier. If we do, we will claim responsibility because we take pride and responsibility in all we are doing. That is our code.
“Nigeria military also lied that NDA kill soldiers. We have not engaged in combat with them, but if they want us to kill them, let them come after us.”
On the alleged arrest of 10 of its members, they tweeted: “Our attention has been drawn to the arrest of 10 Niger Delta Avengers boys by Nigeria military. None of our strike team has been arrested, it is all a lie.”
Meanwhile, ex-militants in the Niger Delta yesterday in Sapele, listed conditions for a ceasation in the current spate of bombings of oil installations in the region.
According to the ex-militants, unless the conditions are met by the Federal Government, there would be no respite in the area and more militant groups will emerge.
The conditions, according to their leaders, Paul Toruwei and Anthony Dango, include the fact that the Federal Government must audit all the records of payments made to ex-militants so far from the beginning of the Amnesty programme.
“The Amnesty Office must pay up all outstanding payments to us. It must pay all those who have not been receiving the monthly stipend since 2009.
‘’The Amnesty Office has lied to the President that it is paying everyone his stipends when it is not paying more than half of us who surrendered weapons to the Federal Government at the commencement of the Amnesty programme.
“The government has since January 2016 stopped the payment of N65,000 monthly stipend to those of us who have finished their school and skill acquisition training. We have no other means of livelihood, so the government must restore the payments.
“We also want the government to correct the false information that the Amnesty Office has fully paid till date over 30,000 recipients their monthly amnesty entitlements of N65,000 each. That is not true, the true position of the actual number of people paid, which is far less than the figure of 30,000 persons, must be revealed to avert further trouble in Niger Delta.
“There would be more bombings and more militant groups will spring up, if these conditions are not met immediately,’’ the ex-militants stated.
Similarly, Ijaw People Development Initiative, IPDI, has also released the names of 10 persons arrested at Oporoza by the Army, saying they were students, plumbers, bricklayers, community youths and artisans and not Avengers as claimed.
National president of the group, Austin Ozobo, listed the 10 persons to include Ebis Emma Job (SS1 Student, Gbaraun Grammar School, Oporoza), Philip Gagha (Palace cook), Andrew (Palace driver) and Tebe-ebi (Palace tailor).
Others are Emotimifagha (Student of Gbaraun Grammar School, Oporoza), John David (Student of Gbaraun Grammar School, Oporoza), Solomon Teiwei (Student of Gbaraun Grammar School, Oporoza), Oromoni Peter Miyebi (Community boy), Godspower Abraham (Student of Gbaraun Grammar School, Oporoza) and Bright (mechanic)
Also, spokesperson of Gbaramatu Traditional Council, GTC, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, expressed regrets that soldiers seized two speedboats donated to the council by Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, and also dismissed claims that the 10 persons were members of the NDA.
Reacting to the situation in the region, two-time former governor of old Bendel State, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, said yesterday the renewed militancy in the Niger Delta was a challenge to President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to focus on measures for alternative revenue for the nation.
Ogbemudia, who noted that the President had done well in the last one year, stressed the need for the nation to go back to agriculture.
According to him, agriculture produced the groundnut pyramids in the North, Cocoa pyramid in the East, palm oil and rubber in the Midwest and East which he said could not be bombed.
He said: “My personal opinion is that the bombing and destruction of pipelines in the Niger Delta is a challenge to the country to look for an alternative source of funding.
‘’If we had paid attention to agriculture as the North is producing groundnut, the West cocoa, the Mid-West palm oil and others do the same, nobody can sabotage the economy by blowing up pipelines. The pyramids in Kano, you cannot get there to say you want to go and bomb it.’’
In a similar vein, Human Rights Monitors and Ijaw women, under the auspices of Ijaw Women Connect, IWC, have also accused the Nigerian military of human rights abuse, following recent invasion on Oporoza and Kurutie communities of Gbaramatu Kingdom by the military.
The groups in separate statements signed by their coordinator and president, Fred Brisibe and Rosemary Naingba respectively, described the actions of the military as a ploy to militarize Gbaramatu under the guise of looking for suspected militants.
“It is clear from the ongoing assaults and mindless abuse of human rights that the intention of the Nigerian Army is to wipe out everything that has live in Gbaramatu kingdom,” they said.
National Association of Gbaramatu Students in a statement by the President, Seiyefa Ekpemupolo, in Warri, enjoined the international community to come to the aid of their people, following the siege and invasion of the kingdom by the military.
“We have to raise the alarm about the torture, pains and suffering being meted to our people by the military which had laid siege to our kingdom.
“We condemn the invasion as our people are neither militants nor members of the Avengers. We call on the United Nations to call President Buhari and his occupational army to order.
“Our students are out of school following the invasion and cannot prepare or sit for the common entrance and junior WAEC that will start in days,” it said.
Reacting to the invasion, Secretary, Gbaramatu Political Forum, Comrade Isaiah Ogah , called on President Muhammed Buhari to order the military to free the Gbaramatu monarch, HRM, Williams Ogoba, Oboro Gbauran II, from alleged house arrest.
Ogah in a statement in Warri, said: “There are no Avengers in Oporoza and Gbaramatu Kingdom . The house arrest of the Pere of Gbaramatu kingdom by the Army is uncalled for.
“I appeal to the Nigerian Army too free the Pere of Gbaramatu kingdom and Oporoza community. The military continued occupation, beating of elders/chiefs, arresting and embarrassing of the people of Oporoza is inhuman.”
Niger Delta Youth Movement, NDYM, yesterday in Uyo condemned the recurrent bombing of oil pipeline facilities by militants and warned them to desist from such acts because of the attendant economic wastes and the tendency to scare away investors.
Speaking with journalists in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, National President of the group, Mr. Joe Jackson, however, implored the Federal Government not to match fire for fire with the militants but dialogue with them to find an enduring solution to the resurgence.
“We condemn the continued bombing of oil installations in the Niger Delta region, it is not for our interest. The act is likely to ruin the economy of the region.”